Investigation into controversial “Batti campus” needed: Govt.

Thursday, 2 May 2019 02:33 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • Source of Rs. 3.6 b needs to be probed, says MP Prof. Ashu Marasinghe
  • Says conflict of interest between Hira Foundation and Batticaloa Campus Ltd. linked to Eastern Province Governor
  • Denies UGC or Higher Education permission given for project to become university
  • Proposes taking project under Govt. and converting into public university


By Uditha Jayasinghe

The Government yesterday denied the controversial education institution under construction in the Batticaloa district has received University Grants Commission (UGC) approval to function as a local higher education institute, but acknowledged an investigation is needed into its funding sources.

Sectoral Oversight Sub-Committee on Higher Education member Prof. Ashu Marasinghe told reporters that red flags had been raised about the institution for months, and as a result Government approval had been withheld for the institution to be given accreditation under the UGC or the Higher Education Ministry.   

He denied that it was being established as a “Sharia university”, and said that 35 acres of land had been given by the Mahaweli Authority in 2013, to start a village-level training centre in Batticaloa. The land had been given to the Hira Foundation at just Rs. 491,200 lease payment per year. The Foundation had failed to make payments from 2013 to 2017, but made the payment in full in 2018.

The main representatives of the Hira Foundation had been registered as Eastern Province Governor M. L. A. M. Hizbullah and Hiraz Mohamad Hizbullah. The Foundation had then formed the Batticaloa Campus Ltd., and set about starting up the university. Even though the Hira Foundation had initially received permission to have village-level training, it then expanded that to also have technical engineering courses.   

“When we were going through the documents, we found that Rs. 3.6 billion had been deposited to a Bank of Ceylon account for the Batticaloa Campus Ltd., by a person called Ali Abdulla Ali, said to be living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. But we don’t have complete details of this person, or where this money comes from. The Hira Foundation initially said this was a grant, and then they said it was given as a loan without interest. In addition, 90% of the shares of Batticaloa Campus Ltd. is also under the Hira Foundation. This is a huge conflict of interest, and I feel that there should be more investigations into this issue,” he said.

The money, which has been deposited in 2016 and 2017, remains in the account, and Prof. Marasinghe said that in his view, it would be better if the institution was taken under the purview of the Government and established as a public university under the UGC. “After what happened with SAITM, we are very careful now of who are behind these ventures and where the money is coming from. Clearly there needs to be more investigation into this project. The Oversight Committee will also continue its work,” he added.